The 4,500 people who attended the 2013 BSFAs, in London’s Dalston Yard, voted for the People’s Choice Award on the new British Street Food . It’s fair to say that Bao from London were clear winners. They make every element of their signature Gua Bao, or steamed pork belly bun, themselves — from the soya milk to the peanut powder that’s hand-shaved from gigantic peanut brittle. Probably why they were also victorious in Best Main Dish (sponsored by NCASS).
Street food in Britain used to be Mr Whippy – or that bloke with a rusty metal handcart outside the football ground. Not any more.
The British Street Food Awards – that have become an end-of-season institution since they were founded back in 2009 — went all European this year. The festival of vans, trucks and trailers showcased the very best of street food from across the entire continent. Traders travelled from Stockholm, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin to compete, but the winners were Katie and Kim from Bristol, who baked out of a converted horse box to be voted Best of the Best.
Katie and Kim won the title for their amazing cheese scones, still warm from the oven, and bowls of stovies with oatcakes spread with thick curls of Scottish butter. As Best of the Best, they have now secured a premier pitch at Trinity Kitchen, the new retail development in Leeds. British Street Food are curating the new TK food court, which will involve an ever-changing roster of the new wave of Britain’s street food stars.
2013 has been the year of street food, with markets popping up all over Britain. And food retailers are working out how best to engage with the new bloods. Manchester Airport, for instance, offered Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – the winners of the British Street Food Awards 2012 – a pitch indoors. Restaurants that began on the street (Pitt Cue, Pizza Pilgrims, Daisy Green, Yum Bun, Homeslice and Meat Liquor) have been doing well. And even the supermarkets are trying to get in on the act with their ‘street food’ ranges. There’s something about the way of eating that has captured the public’s imagination.
Cookery writer and actress Fay Ripley joined food writer and broadcaster Tom Parker Bowles and Simon Anderson, one of the Pitt Cue team, to judge all 40 dishes. They were all kept in line by the founder of the British Street Food Awards food journalist Richard Johnson. There was a caravan from Kent making sponge cakes, and an army field kitchen cooking up the best of ingredients foraged from the Scottish countryside. With snow cones from 13-year-old Stan, Britain’s youngest street food trader. And a ‘Snoop Hoggy Dog’ that Tom Parker Bowles declared the best hot dog he had ever tasted.
The most hotly contested category this year was Best Sandwich. Even last year’s award-winning Manjit’s Kitchen couldn’t quite beat the sublime No Lobster Roll from Tongue ‘N Cheek which – for reasons of price and sustainability – replaced the lobster with cod cheeks. And with the juicy BBQ pork roll from the wood-fired oven of The Tinderbox and the crisp, buttery sourdough on Keep On Toasting’s British Croq, it was a close run thing.
The Best Dessert category was hoovered up by Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – for the third year running – for their take on a 99. This soft-serve olive oil ice cream came with Hawaiian black salt sprinkles and a dark chocolate flake that was studded with black olives. The duo are from Manchester, and (along with other winners, including the Beats street food collective from Bristol and the Digbeth Dining Club from Birmingham) reflect a really broad base to the street food phenomenon in Britain.
But it was nice to see, after all their efforts, that our continental cousins managed to take home a bit of silverware. Best Drink and Best Burger, for instance, which went to the French for an obscenely rich milkshake and a boeuf bourgignon burger. And Highly Commendeds for the extraordinary beetroot couscous from the Netherlands and the soft shell crab taco from Sweden. Plus big-time bragging rights for travelling for 48 hours to join the party.
Richard Johnson, the founder of the British Street Food Awards, sees 2013/2014 as a period of real growth. Johnson (who is a regular presenter of the Food Programme for BBC Radio 4, and writes a street food column for the Guardian) is even working with Leon and the government to put street food swagger into children’s school dinners. “It feels like the original idea of street food – to make good fun food accessible to everyone – is finally starting to turn into a reality.”
The People’s Choice
Best Main Dish (sponsored by NCASS)
Pork Belly Bao (Bao)
Beetroot and Couscous Salad (Buskruid)
No Lobster Roll (Tongue ‘N Cheek)
Chilli Paneer Wrap (Manjit’s Kitchen)
The Snoop Hoggy Dog (Big Apple Hot Dogs)
Toasted Cheese Scone (Katie and Kim)
Soya Milk Fried Chicken (Bao)
Sol battered soft shell crab taco (El Taco)
Cullen Skink with Home-made Wheaten Bread (Wild Rover Food)
Carrot and Coriander Soup (Buskruid)
Dorset Sushi (Dorshi)
Bhel Puri (Manjit’s)
The Bourgignon Burger (Le Refectoire)
Picante Heartbreaker (Tongue ‘N Cheek)
Heinz 57 Burgerdog (Street Kitchen)
R Mutt Burgerdog (Street Kitchen)
Beef Burger (Gurmetti)
Mr Whippy with Sprinkles and a Flake (Gingers Comfort Emporium)
Mojito Ice Lolly (Ice Kitchen)
Baked Plums, Crumble and Crème Fraiche (The Tinderbox)
Raspberry, Basil and White Chocolate Ice Lolly (Ice Kitchen)
Snow Cone with Home-made Rhubarb and Jasmine Syrup (Stan’s Snow Cones)
Beer and Nuts (Bessie)
Kent Harvest Cake (Bessie)
Rhubarb and Custard Candy Floss (Cotton Club)
Sherbert Dip Candy Floss (Cotton Club)
Paris-Brest Milkshake with “Praline” (Le Refectoire)
Ginger Beer (Square Root London)
Raspberry Lemonade (Square Root London)_
Coconut Horchita (Chinampas)
Agua de Chia (Chinampas)
Best Overseas Trader
Best Young Trader – One To Watch
Stan from Stan’s Snow Cones
Best Street Food Collective
BEATS from Bristol
Best Street Food Event
Digbeth Dining Club
The judging panel for the 2013 British Street Food Awards was the hungriest assembled for a food competition. Ever!
Growing up, Fay Ripley’s father never allowed her eat puddings. But she’s making up for it now. I first met the star of shows such as Cold Feet and Reggie Perrin on Full On Food – a BBC2 series I hosted a few years back. She was cooking meringues in front of a live studio audience. Brave woman. She’s a serious foodie, has already won cookbook of the year for her first one and has a third book (Fay Makes It Easy) hitting the shelves early next year. Nice.
Pitt Cue Co started out as a silver trailer on London’s Southbank. For three months, it dished out hot, Southern US-style, slow-cooked food and — overnight — it became A Thing. Last year it was joined by a destination restaurant in Soho, and attendant queues round the block. Simon Anderson along with Tom Adams, Jamie Berger and Richard H. Turner brought their experience from Hawksmoor, The Albion, The Blueprint Cafe and Brunswick House to create a fabulously finger-licking, bourbon-drinking brand that is still taking the London restaurant scene by storm. And, this summer, it’s lighting up the bookshelves as well. So Simon knows his onions.
Tom Parker Bowles
Tom Parker Bowles is food writer and broadcaster with a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday. He’s also the Food Editor at Esquire magazine, and judge on the ITV series Food Glorious Food. And a lovely, kind man to boot. The paperback of Let’s Eat – Recipes From My Kitchen Notebook is out now.
A team of British Street Food journalists and judges have, for the last year, been eating out for the public good — tracking down the best street food on the European continent and noting it down in their notebooks. Now the chosen ones are all taking part in a massive UK v Europe food fight at Dalston Yard, Hartwell Street, London E8 3DU on Saturday and Sunday September 28/29. Who wins? You decide. Download the voting app now by following the links over at https://www.britishstreetfood.co.uk/app.
Mathilde is the chef. Pablo is the natural wine aficionado. Together they’ve worked in restaurants across the South of France and Canada. They recently fired up The Bunsmobile in Berlin, which is a big yellow GMC truck serving gourmet street food. For the BSFAs they’re planning a homage to the classic “Guédille de Gaspésie”, a hotdog bun with salad, shrimps and fries. But it will all depend on what’s good at London’s markets on the day they arrive. That’s IF they arrive. The van hasn’t travelled long distances since 1987.
Le Refectoire (Paris)
Le refectoire means refectory. But that undersells the food that this – the coolest French food truck by a country mile – puts in front of its punters. Founded in 2012, they’re a high-end operation. So expect braised beef “façon bourguignon”, with béarnaise sauce, mustard leaves and roasted carrots. Or lamb cooked for seven hours, with rosemary, honey and fresh mint. On the side? “Potatoes puffed” apparently. Nope – we’ve got no idea either….
El Taco Truck (Stockholm)
Don’t let the tattoos and the beards fool you. Nikola and Bolle are sweet and kind, and drive round in a pink food truck. They fell in love with Mexican food when they were living and working in the US. Now they’re using the Nordic larder to give their tacos that North European flava.
A shiny red fire truck is where Jessica prepares and serves all her soups and salads. In the Amsterdam-based “Buskruid” – a play on the Dutch words for gunpowder (buskruit) and herbs (kruid) – she’s making a name for herself on the Dutch festival circuit with her local, vegetarian menu. Two of Jessica’s best friends will be travelling to London with her to cook up a carrot-coconut soup with sweet potato and lots of ginger, and a couscous salad with red beetroot, fennel, feta cheese, fresh mint, horseradish cream and hazelnuts.
Keep On Toasting (Brussels)
Toast is so much more than grilled bread. Jean-Baptiste – Belgian, professional cook and foodtrucker – has raised the stuff to gourmet status. He uses organic spelt for his croqs, and likes to stuff them with endives, green beans and lentils for texture. He’s even daring to bring The British Croq to the Awards. Really!
Gurmetti (Emilia-Romagna via London)
Mr Gurmetti is an Italian deli truck run by the personable Giacomo. It’s all about the man and the van, but the provenance of his food – as it happens – is also second to none. He gets his charcuterie from La Corte Dei Neri, a small farm near Parma, and his pesto is made by an aunt in Porto Venere. Expect a small menu packed with classics such as smoked shoulder of wild black pig with tropea onion and balsamic vinegar marmalade served in a hot piadina flatbread. All served out of the cutest customized Vespa Ape you’ll ever see.
Heisser Hobel (Berlin)
A German-French couple who both grew up in restaurants, Florian and Myriam will be serving ” Allgäuer Kässpätzle” at the Awards – a traditional dish from the Allgäu. The noodles are prepared and cooked in front of the customers, and served with black pepper, fried onions and chives. Oh, and Bavarian cheese, produced by the small dairy run by Florian’s family. It’s all served from an old East German camper trailer. “The trailer survived the Cold War and the fall of the wall,” says Florian, “so I doubt a trip to London will do him any harm.”
Tongue ‘N Cheek (Lombardy via London)
The massive ox tongue on Cristiano Meneghin’s trestle table doesn’t seem to harm business any. The Italian’s mission is to make the best of some of the less-regarded cuts: whether it’s cheek served with polenta or tongue rolled with salsa verde. Check out his famous Heartbreaker Burger made of 50% ox heart and 50% 40-day aged beef. Cristiano has now moved his family to London to learn the ways of British street food. But he’s so Italian he’ll pinch his own bottom.
Gingers Comfort Emporium (Manchester)
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium is an ice cream van for grown ups, run by Claire Kelsey. She’s hooked on the alchemy of cream, sugar and a world of flavours, and is a member of The Experimental Food Society. For the 2011 Spectacular she imported 150 litres of camel milk for ice cream – surprisingly acceptable, some said delicious. But it was her Breakfast At Ginger’s – a marmalade on toast ice cream, atop an Earl Grey sorbet – that took the top honours at the British Street Food Awards 2012.
Katie And Kim (Bristol)
Katie Kim couldn’t afford to buy a burger van. So they bought a horsebox instead – on ebay for £300 – and fitted it out with it’s own bread oven. But on day 1 of their new venture, Kim realised she didn’t like towing round a horsebox with a 4 x 4. On day 2, the 4 x 4 broke down anyway. Katie is now having driving lessons, but still hasn’t passed her test. Doesn’t stop them baking the best custard tarts you’ll ever taste, or serving up the best bacon sandwiches, with home-cured bacon, home-made brown sauce and fresh bread.
Street Kitchen (London)
There is something about Street Kitchen’s aluminium Airstream trailer. Its clean, sleek lines lend it a look of the past – and the future. Its monocoque body shell is still turning heads, 75 years after it was first launched. The trailer comes with a pedigree. That’s why Jun Tanaka and Mark Jankel wanted one. With an eye on world domination, Jun Tanaka and Mark Jankel are rolling out, slowly, across London. But no compromise on the quality of seasonal British ingredients. Winner Best Main Dish of British Street Food Awards in 2011 and 2012.
Wild Rover (Fife)
Cat and Rob have a deep-seated belief in eating local and supporting their community. With deliveries arriving from neighbouring farmers and fishermen during the week, they journey out to events at the weekend. But they’ve never traded anywhere further than Aviemore. Just as well that Bessie, their 1961 Series 2 Land Rover, and Bert, their ex-army Field Kitchen, were up for a challenge – they took four days getting to London to compete in the British Street Food Awards in 2012. Whether it’s wood pigeon wrap or Moroccan mackerel parcel, they couple like their food to reflect the seasons. “It’s easy to forget sometimes why you’re in this business. When the ‘country festivals’ charge over a grand for a pitch fee for local produce; when it rains so hard that seasonal crops are still buried in the soil; and when ‘luxury accommodation’ is sleeping on an old door in the back of old Bessie.
The British Street Food team discovered Bessie serving high tea in a field, way out in the Kentish countryside – home-made sloe gin, thick slices of Victoria sponge and bunting everywhere. Bessie is a lovingly restored 1960’s Cheltenham Fawn caravan who brings a smile to everyone who sees her. So does Karen, the woman who gets to polish her of a Sunday. What a team.
The Tinderbox (Surrey)
The Tinderbox is a unique, hand-crafted ‘teardrop’ caravan complete with a traditional wood oven. There’s a versatility to the Tinderbox’s menu, which offers up everything from traditional stonebaked pizza, to roast meats and fish baked on the bone. If you can, go for the slow-roasted BBQ pulled pork with two root slaw followed by roasted seasonal fruits – the peaches with amaretti and clotted cream will change your life.
In Tokyo, sushi is an art. But an art with very strict rules. Even the arc described by a piece of fish on top of the sushi rice has a prescribed shape. It should make the same gentle curve as the pages of an opened book when placed on the table. In Dorset, sushi is a bit more relaxed. Thank goodness. Otherwise Dorshi – or Dorset Sushi – wouldn’t exist. It’s made using 100% local Dorset produce including the vegetables, the pearl barley, the cured meats and the smoked fish. Even the spicy horseradish dip and soy sauce (minus the soy!). It’s an education, and makes the whole idea of eating local fun. It would never happen in Tokyo. Which is a shame – even sushi needs to evolve.
Ice Kitchen (London)
Cesar Roden creates hand-made ice lollies (“for every reason and every season” as he likes to say) using the latest rapid-freeze technology. Inspired by the Latin American paletas tradition of using whole fresh fruit, he turns out all-natural slabs of flavour. Expect the unexpected, with flavours like pistachio and rose, roasted plum, or raspberry and cream. Stop him and buy one.
Bao, winners of the street food section of the 2013 Young British Foodies, serve up a changing menu of Taiwanese small eats specialising in a Gua Bao – a steamed pork belly bun. They make everything themselves from the soya milk to the peanut powder that is hand shaved from gigantic peanut brittle. They use traditional Taiwanese methods with a few twists along the way for a more contemporary and local feel.
Big Apple Hot Dogs (London)
It’s time to take hot dogs seriously. With Wieners on the menu at The Delaunay, and Franks on the menu at Mishkins, times are changing. Welcome to the world of ‘haute dogs’. These fellahs are made from quality British cuts – and don’t come out of a can. Master of the griddle is Abiye Cole of Big Apple Hot Dogs. There’s something about the natural casings, with a “snap” on every bite, and the rolls, stuffed with onions fried in in butter and thyme. Better – yes better – than ANYTHING you’ll find in New York.
Square Root London (London)
Traditional, naturally-fermented sodas made from seasonal ingredients served on draught from Elsie, the vintage tricycle! Expect cucumber soda, or soda from the last of the season’s Kentish strawberries. But there’s talk of a special London pale ale ice cream sundae for the judges…
Stan’s Snow Cones (East Sussex)
This is Stan. Hello Stan. Once upon a time, Stan went to New York,
where – one hot summer day – he found a company selling shaved ice. Stan thought, ‘Why can’t I get this in East Sussex?’ So he asked People’s Pops people where they got their kit. And they told him. Result? Stan’s Snow Cones. Oh. Did we mention that Stan is 13?
The Cotton Club (London)
I say. Meet the Cotton Club – a frightfully smart start-up selling candy floss with exciting adult flavours. Get your mouth round Rhubarb and Custard, Strawberry and Cream, Lemon Meringue Pie, Coffee and Donuts, Liquorice and Sherbet, Toasted Marshmallow and Salted Caramel Popcorn. And then tell us that candy floss is just for the kids…
Manjit’s Kitchen (Leeds)
Manjit built her streetfood cart from the bits and pieces people no longer wanted. Like snooker cues – and the wheels from a child’s old bike. Then she bought a flowery 1980’s Leyland DAF 200 (with a vintage sound system in the back) to tow it along. It’s all a bit home-made. But the bhel puris, chapati wraps, and samosas that she sells out the back are touched by the hands of the Gods. And her chai won Best Drink at the British Street Food Awards 2012. “All mixed for you how you like” she says. “With vintage Jamaican music….”
‘Agua Frescas’ – literally translated as ‘fresh waters’ – are the drink of Mexico. Ice cold and colourful, they’re everywhere from Chiuahua in the north to Chiapas in the south. Following notes scribbled on napkins, from generous traders up and down the country, Chinampas are now showing the UK there’s more to drink in Mexico than tequila. Try the Flor de Jamaica, Tamarindo and Horchata.
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